photo credit: Qasim Sadiq

photo credit: Qasim Sadiq

 
 
 
photo credit: Leo Hoskins

photo credit: Leo Hoskins

Rachelle Bensoussan, M.A., CT.

Co-Founder & Managing Director

(pronouns: she, her)

Hello, and thank you for being here, human, with me. I have spent the last ten years deep in the waters of grief and loss. I have created community-based, peer-led bereavement programs for hospices across southern Ontario, lectured on grief and loss at medical schools and universities, sat humbled and broken with hundreds of people as they shared with me stunning stories of what it means to be here, human and alive. I have a master’s degree in Thanatology (the scientific study of death and the losses brought about as a result); however, none of this is what brings me here, to this moment, with you. I am here first, and always, as one who has lived much of my life orphaned and wandering. I am here as the woman who at 25 stood silent, swallowing screams, as they buried a woman I loved in the frozen, snow-covered ground. I am here because grief is as familiar and embedded in me as the air in my lungs and the blood that pumps from my one and only human heart. It has shaped every part of who I am, how I experience the world, how I parent, how I live, how I am always afraid, even when I am deep in love and surrounded by breathtaking beauty, especially then perhaps most of all. I am here as a person who has proudly, and unapologetically, never gotten over or moved on, and as one who will never accept or forgive that which was taken from me.  I am here as the person who survived and who continues each day to live with the cost, and the wonder, of that survival. I am here, fully and irrefutably, human.

*footnote- I am a queer-identified woman of North-African & Middle Eastern decent. I live in Toronto with my daughter and all her feelings (of which there are many), and with the woman in whose arms I found a thousand reasons to live.

 
 
photo credit: Leo Hoskins

photo credit: Leo Hoskins

Michelle Williams, MSW

Co-Founder & Managing Director

(pronouns: she, her)

I came to this work unexpectedly as I suspect many of us do. My world changed when my mother died of a rare form of cancer in 2010. All of the things I thought were important suddenly weren’t and grief became my constant companion. As a woman of colour my grief was not always met with words of comfort, understanding or empathy. My anger, fear and frustration at losing my mother were shut down, dismissed or often seen as threatening. I felt isolated and didn’t have the tools to mourn her permanent departure from my life. 

With my peanut allergic son as my inspiration, I poured my grief into the creation of Olli Lolli Inc., a clothing line for children who carry emergency medications. My strong entrepreneurial spirit allowed me to focus on something outside of the loss of my mother, the reality of which was incomprehensible to me. I pursued and received a master’s degree in social work where I gained a more comprehensive understanding of grief and loss. I have been present with individuals and their families at end of life and provided support to bereaved individuals in both one-to-one and group settings.

I’m here because I still grieve – I grieve for my sons who won’t grow up knowing their grandmother; I grieve the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women; I grieve the Black lives lost to police brutality; I grieve for those who feel invisible, dismissed, and unwanted. Beyond providing grief and loss education and support, I hope to foster an environment at being here, human, where all who are grieving or experiencing loss can feel welcome. Where our shared humanity is the basis for inclusion and belonging.

*footnote - I live in Collingwood, ON, with my husband, two sons and our miniature labradoodle, Ruby, who is my female spirit ally in a male dominated household.

 

For more information about our services, please click here. To learn more about Safe House, our online or in-person grief support service, please click here.